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Music Review: James Yuill – Turning Down Water For Air (Earth & Fire Versions)

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After having missed seeing English folktronic musician James Yuill perform live a few months ago in San Francisco, it’s beginning to dawn on me that I might be regretting it. No, I had never heard of Yuill before and I was only interested in seeing the main act. But after many entire repeats of Turning Down Water For Air (Earth & Fire Versions), it is with much disappointment that I say ‘damn.’

Earth & Fire Versions is different from your run of the mill remix album. London-based Yuill restyled many of the tracks from his 2008 debut Turning Down Water For Air with more acoustic and electronic-tinged flavors.

Unfortunately, two original tracks “Over The Hill” and “Somehow” didn’t make the final cut on this pseudo re-imagined album, and interestingly enough “No Surprise” gets dual Earth and Fire reworkings. “No Surprise (Earth Version)” is the mellow acoustic side to the upbeat electronica of “No Surprise (Fire Version)”.

James Yuill (photo by Emily Dennison)While the changes to some tracks seem subtle (when compared to the original “Left Handed Girl”), others get remade in differing shades that are more than obvious (“This Sweet Love”).

But because Yuill made it a point to distinguish these versions from plain remixes, it’s interesting to hear how the core of each song remains intact despite his tinkering. With lyrics like “Won’t you stay with me tonight? / Won’t you stay with me my love?”, the former ballad “You Always Do (Fire Version)” is transformed into a cosmic love letter with the electronic melody serving as the enchanting timeless background.

Even during the less frenetic moments (keep in mind the folktronic label), Turning Down Water For Air (Earth & Fire Versions) never really slows down or loses its momentum. Yuill constantly maintains a pleasant body-moving beat throughout the album, although that beat might not necessarily always match with the sometimes somber lyrics.

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